Focusing on Internal Improvement
by Vivek Swaminathan
A continuous focus on improvement is critical to running
a successful business—especially in our current economic climate. Technological
and societal progress has made it easier to do business and, as such,
has increased the number of competitors. This, in turn, has increased
the possibility that a new industry leader will emerge if current leaders
Key First Steps
Taking the time to study where your money and time is being spent, as
well as thinking about your core company values, are key first steps to
implementing a successful strategy. Redefining values will help you review
resources and costs and identify waste and gaps within your business.
I have worked with a number of organizations and know the value in creating
a suite of software and tools to help run businesses. These systems tend
to be a blend of programs developed internally as well as software that
is available in the market. While some companies have the staff capable
to develop whatever they want, it is always important to evaluate external
options and weigh value and return on investment (ROI) before determining
the best course of action. When there are proven software and systems
available in the market, I have found that using established tools that
meet the defined needs rather than reinventing the wheel is the right
choice. On the other hand, using internal resources to develop and manage
tools can be extremely valuable when the needs are highly customized or
complex (provided you have capable resources to be effective). It is important
to have a robust suite of tools to allow you to manage key areas of your
operations such as customer service, project management, development,
resources and financials. A development management program helps to ensure
quality, consistency, transparency, and accuracy in a development process.
Resource management tools allow companies to plan and monitor time as
well as to gain visibility to capacity or efficiency concerns. This information
can feed other operations such as project management and customer service.
Tools in these areas allow organizations to manage sales, plan projects,
resolve issues, monitor budgets and track communication. Finally, financial
tools are vital for managing collections, predicting and monitoring revenue,
setting targets, and reducing expenses.
When evaluating software, it is important to understand the functionality
that the software provides but also make sure you learn about your vendor.
Ask questions about how they run their businesses and what their core
principles and goals are. Talk to a few of their key people to make sure
you are comfortable with the structure and aptitude across the organization.
Request a demonstration of the software and make sure it can handle your
requirements. This will help garner a level of trust necessary for a successful
relationship and will ensure that you are partnering with a stable and
knowledgeable company that continuously strives to improve.
Despite all the benefits mentioned above, there are a few common roadblocks
when implementing software. Make sure you make informed decisions by evaluating
your needs and implementing the best solution. I’ve seen very large companies
operate entirely in spreadsheets, often due to a lack of recognition that
the tool does not meet current or future needs. Implementing change when
the success factors are not defined almost surely will result in failure
and a great deal of stress. While software can provide a great deal of
data, extrapolating and analyzing the data available sometimes can be
overwhelming. Start looking at some of the data because spending a lot
of time deciding how you want to see the data won’t produce any conclusions.
I would suggest spending the time to create multiple views of the same
data in order to provide the most pertinent information to the appropriate
people to track progress and ensure accountability. Finally, when implementing
technology, one of the most important things to remember is that technology
alone doesn’t solve all of your problems or stop issues from occurring.
It can facilitate prevention, productivity and intervention but if the
processes or resources in the organization aren’t getting the job done,
neither will your company.
Vivek Swaminathan is director of operations for WTS
Paradigm in Middleton, Wis. Mr. Swaminathan’s opinions are solely his
own and not necessarily those of this magazine.
© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.